The Shield of David

In the Hong Kong Legends DVD audio commentary by Miles Wood and Jude Poyer, it was stated that there was going to be a sequel to Story of Ricky if it wasn’t for the lack of monetary success. If someone else in H.K. (such as Billy Tang) had the gall to do a sequel, they might not have the right to do so. In that instance, it will be a rip-off where the title is legally changed from Riki-Oh to The Shield of David. I wonder if the first movie was authorized considering that Riki-Oh was renamed as Ho Lik-Wong. It was mentioned in the commentary that the sequel was to take place in a hi-tech security prison. However, that happens much later in the gory comics. By the way, the prison story had a canny influence on the one in The Walking Dead as can be seen here. One similarity that is not mentioned is this: Ricky has his right hand impaled by the warden whereas comic book Rick has his right hand chopped off by the governor.

The HKL DVD release of Story of Ricky was October in 2002 whereas The Walking Dead was first issued in October of 2003. Rick’s hand loss happened in issue 28. Another example of influence that Story of Ricky has is a Chinese comic book called Black Mask. The story is different but has the same appeal – a martial artist who can withstand pain which borders on the masochistic. This would eventually be adapted as a Jet Li movie produced by Tsui Hark and choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping. As such, I will pepper this article with stills of that movie as it is one of Jet’s several H.K. movies which should’ve been given the same sort of theatrical release that some of Jackie Chan’s H.K. movies had received in terms of stateside distribution. The other Jet movies are The Bodyguard from Beijing, Fist of Legend, High RiskDr. Wai and Hitman. Unlike Black Mask (where one of the bad guys is into BDSM), Story of Ricky never got a sequel.

Besides budgetary restrictions, there are other problems with adapting the rest of the saga. A villain who looks like Jack Nicholson wouldn’t guarantee such casting (although Michael Ironside would’ve been more willing). Also, he allows the hero to use a weapon which is suspiciously similar to the lightsaber. Maybe George Lucas would’ve sued or not bothered to do so since he is a fan of H.K. movies. After all, he initially considered hiring Sammo Hung to choreograph the Star Wars prequels. As compensation for such an omission, the makers of the illegal adaptation would be allowed to create the rare sight of humanity when an effeminate villain cries over the death of his bird (the cage bars represent a jail). After the narrative of the live-action movie, the Manga (whose issues are titled Violence) continues into strange forays such as bad guys riding elephants and a fight which pits the hero against two lions in a gladiatorial ring.

This was inspired by a fight in Tower of Death (a sequel to a 1978 Bruce Lee movie titled Game of Death). In the sequel, the lion is a man in a costume. For it to work in a H.K. movie, they would have to use CGI like what Tsui Hark did in Double Team when a tiger is unleased upon the hero in the Roman colosseum. Later in the Manga, there is an imaginative piece of gore when a man’s left eye falls into a bottle during a fight. A similar act of violence ensues when a man’s left eye pops through one of the lens in his glasses. The most memorable of the torture scenes involves a man having hot liquid being poured down a pipe that is embedded in his trapezius (a muscle which connects the shoulder and neck) as he’s hung upside down. This happens while his son watches. The man is eventually killed when the skin of his torso is sliced so that it can form a bag which covers his head to cause suffocation (this has not been done in a U.S. film).

The silliest violent act involves a man’s left ear being punched because of eavesdropping. In a 1990 issue, a gay guy has a revolver inside a book which foreshadows a scene in John Woo’s Hard-Boiled. Mr. Woo may have been influenced considering that his classic was made in 1991 like Story of Ricky (they were released in 1992). A 1989 issue had a panel involving a careless butler being killed by a descending fan. Taking into consideration that Highlander II: The Quickening (which featured Michael Ironside) was made in 1990, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched to assume that there was an influence. A tyrannical gay guy has a sidekick (a small scientist named Obinata) who could’ve been played by Teddy Robin Kwan. Overall, Riki-Oh has the most influential Manga villains if you think back to the first paragraph of this article. It’s an indignity that the official English title of the series is Violence. The title should’ve been Sadomasochism.

The Jewish superhero is someone whose superpower can only exist if he’s willing to let other people dish out the pain, which is why he isn’t skillful enough to avoid being hit. He lives in a perpetual state of atonement. He fights a clown-dressed man whose insignia is a swastika (which was originally a Buddhist symbol). The man has a clown flute but doesn’t wear clown make-up. What’s clear is that he is based on the joker that is seen in Tim Burton’s Batman. Riki-Oh has a brother named Nachi whose name is meant to remind you of Nazi. His right hand has a scar in the form of a swastika. In fact, the Manga has several allusions to Nazis in the World War era, including an oft-utilized image of Alfred Hitler which makes it feel more repetitive than it should be. After coming across a translator, I have found out that Riki-Oh is supposed to be the grandson of Hitler.

When Riki-Oh fights Nachi, it has much to do with Judaism besting Buddhism as Judaism toppling Nazism. The engrossing aspect of Riki-Oh is the insinuation that Christianity surpasses Satanism as the most evil religion in the world. In the Manga, many sects try to cause destruction so that Jesus Christ can be resurrected as a saviour. This lends itself to parallels with the destructive influence of Islam. Ironically, it’s alluded to that Riki-Oh is meant to be an immortal reincarnate of Christ just like Fist of the North Star, but someone who can die if he was to lose his head à la Highlander (whose dead franchise never depicted electrocution as making a man look like a fluorescent skeleton). Like Bruce Lee (who was the inspiration for Fist of the North Star), Riki-Oh has Chinese and German ancestry. Unlike Bruce, Riki-Oh commits fratricide and patricide. My favourite violent act involves concrete slabs slicing men’s heads in horizontal and vertical ways.

One classic bit of bloodletting involves blood that emanates from a man’s head through a pipe that’s lodged in there. The most meaningful act of violence involves the clown being able to fight despite missing a brain and heart (thus losing because he’s mindless and heartless). A tactful non-bloody act of violence involves the Jewish hero smashing a church window as he slides down it after being punched. Similarly, a memorable image involves the wounded Jew underneath a large inverted crucifix (this means that church is Hell). The most ingenious fight involves the Judaist and a man being connected by arm-length handcuffs. The most memorable of the stories is also the most difficult to realize because, least of all, it would involve filming in the Antarctica (or at least Alaska like John Carpenter’s The Thing). Then there’s the weighty matter of a big plane crashing, a tornado and the fighter jets.

It would be worth it for the sight (or should that be site?) of the wooden burial crosses. The story is best described as a martial arts version of The Da Vinci Code. There really isn’t much plot to sustain two hours, so there would need to be more suspense and more mysteries to solve. However, most of the bad guys ride vehicles whose design is a rip-off of the ED-209 from RoboCop (the animated panels reminded me of the AT-AT walkers). To compensate for its absence in an adaptation, there’s always the novelty of seeing a monk who is like the grim reaper. The most appealing act of violence is when a man’s right eye pops out of his mask. The final story sees the hero being helped by a whale. The idea of a martial artist being helped by this creature was exploited as fair use for The Moon Warriors. It may seem unlikely, but clearly Riki-Oh was popular enough in H.K. to justify a long-lasting and expensive production.

It’s funny because many people assume that The Moon Warriors (1992) was rushed to make an early release date so as to falsely given the impression that Free Willy (1993) was inspired by it. This theory has been used to explain the hiring of five directors (albeit it could easily have been a case of wanting to rival the number of famous directors who were attached to Swordsman). Back to the comic books, the story returns to the intrigue of The Da Vinci Code. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Story of Ricky is the best live-action adaptation of a Manga. It’s devout faithfulness made it the most successful adaptation in Japan. When Overseas Film Group (an American studio) decided to remake Fist of the North Star, they should have focused on adapting one of the subsequent stories following on from Story of Ricky as opposed to doing a movie that was no more better than Cyborg (the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie).

Back to the comics, I should note that the covers of the Japanese volumes have an English title in the form of Violence Hero. The entire saga is an illustration of how masochism is less damaging than sadism (suicide is preferable to murder because the latter leads to an endless cycle of Karma). There is even a controversial allegory as to how masochists feel that masochism is liberating. Riki-Oh is unable to fight because of a bullet which has G inscribed at the end opposite the tip. The symbolism is that the gay bad guy (Aneyama) sees himself as God. Riki-Oh has to use a pipe to push it out. At some point, a boy has to help him. The underlying meaning is that sadism is only acceptable if it’s masochistic. The ending of the Manga illustrates that assisted suicide is not as selfish as murder. As for the dialogue, it’s only available in Japanese (until someone decides to post an English translation online).

There were many nuances that could’ve elevated it into a more cerebral and touching art-form. However, the artwork (which includes some photo-realistic depictions) and the creativity is enough to make me rate it as 9/10. Maybe someone will create a translation to be posted online. The only Manga that I would rate as 10/10 is Crying Freeman because there was a rich host of worldwide characters, so there’s more depth to the dialogue. As for the action in Crying Freeman, there is a moment of improvisation which reminded me of MacGyver (the most creative `80s TV series). When there was an insatiable interest for live-action Manga/anime in the`90s, there was no attempt to do a U.S. adaptation of Riki-Oh because the H.K. version was nothing short of a truly a top-of-the-line effort. A remake would be pointless. The movie was such a classic that I felt compelled to purchase all 12 volumes.

This guy’s perfect review makes for a nice tour guide for those who wish to brace themselves for the H.K. masterpiece. An unauthorized sequel would be fun due to ample changing of costumes and rechristening of names like how Wong Jing rechristened the Street Fighter crew in Future Cops. On the down side, there is the issue of how the subtitle or dubbing translators would choose to rechristen. In light of the upcoming King Arthur movie, a sequel could capitalize on the Manga scene where Riki-Oh pulled a gravestone out of the ground like Arthur did with his sword. One thing is for sure – they need to have the Judaist take on a judoist. As for whether there would be interest in an apocalyptic movie with martial arts fights, The Book of Eli became something of a success story. If someone in H.K. does make a sequel that won’t be akin to something like those rip-off movies produced by The Asylum.

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